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Last NameFirst NamePictureDC NumberAgencyCase Summary
MartinezJoaquin 124396 Case Summary

Last Action

DateCourtCase NumberLast Action
6/6/2001  Released

Current Attorney


Last Updated

2008-01-09 11:43:13.0

Case Summary
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The Commission on Capital Cases updates this information regularly

MARTINEZ, Joaquin (W/M)

DC# 124396


­­­Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Hillsborough County, Case # 96-1465

Sentencing Judge: The Honorable J. Rogers Padgett

Trial Attorneys: Robert Fraser and Thomas Fox, Esq.

Direct Appeal Attorney: Peter Raben, Esq.


Date of Offense:         10/27 – 10/31/95

Date of Sentence:       05/27/97


Circumstances of Offense:


The bodies of Douglas Lawson and Sherrie McCoy-Ward werefound in their home on 10/31/95, but their time of death was determined to besometime between 10/27/95 and 10/30/95.  Lawson died from gunshot wounds, whileMcCoy-Ward died from multiple stab wounds. 


The police did not find any weapons or any forensic evidenceat the scene that would link the crime to a suspect.  A list of names andtelephone numbers was found in the kitchen, including a pager number for aperson named “Joe.”  After the police left several numeric messages on thepager, Sloane Martinez, the ex-wife of Joaquin Martinez (“Joe”), made atelephone call to the police and told them that she had suspicions that herex-husband was involved in the murders of Lawson and McCoy-Ward.  Sloane agreedto have her house wired for audio and video recording, in an effort to getinformation from Martinez that would implicate him in the murders.  Inconversations between Sloane and Martinez, Martinez made several comments thatcould be interpreted as incriminating.  The police also made a transcript ofthe audio tape conversation. 


Further circumstantial evidence implicating Martinez in themurders was given by Laura Babcock, the ex-fiancé of Martinez, who testifiedthat on 10/27/95, Martinez told her that he planned to get in touch with afriend named “Michael,” who owed him money.  When Martinez returned later thatnight, he was wearing clothing that did not fit him properly and he had aswollen lip and scraped knuckles. 


Additional evidence implicating Martinez came from severaljail inmates who testified against Martinez, alleging that he admitted tocommitting the murders, attempted to implicate another individual for thecrimes, and paid one of the inmates $400 for assistance with the case. 




Trial Summary:


02/14/96          Indictedon the following charges:

                                    CountI            First-Degree Murder (Lawson)

                                    CountII          First-Degree Murder (McCoy-Ward)

                                    CountIII         Armed Burglary

04/15/97          Juryreturned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment

04/16/97          Juryrecommended death for Count II of the indictment by a vote of 9-3

05/27/97          Sentencedas follows:

                                    CountI            Life imprisonment

                                    CountII          Death

                                    CountIII         Life imprisonment


Retrial Summary:


06/06/01          Acquittedat retrial


Appeal Summary:


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal

FSC# 90,952

761 So.2d 1074


07/09/97          Appealfiled

06/15/00          FSCvacated convictions and sentences and remanded for a new trial

07/19/00          Mandateissued


Case Information:


Martinez filed a Direct Appeal with the Florida SupremeCourt on 07/09/97, citing ten trial court errors; however, the FSC chose tocomment on only one of the alleged errors.  On 06/15/00, the FSC reversed theconvictions, vacated the death sentence, and remanded the case for a newtrial.  The FSC ruled that comments by a State witness, Detective Conigliaro,were improperly admitted by the trial court.  During his testimony, Conigliaroimproperly gave his opinion about the guilt of Martinez, saying, “[T] here wasno doubt that he [Martinez] did it.”


On 06/06/01, Martinez was acquitted at the retrial.


Law Enforcement/Prosecution Statements:


Candace Sabella, who wasthe Assistant Attorney General in the Direct Appeal, had the followingstatement regarding the Martinez case:


Sabellaobserved that Martinez’ conviction and sentence were overturned on DirectAppeal, so the only issue that was considered by the FSC was the issue of apotential trial court error (improper testimony of a State witness), not claimsof innocence due to newly discovered evidence, which would have arisen in acollateral proceeding and not in a Direct Appeal.


Sabellanoted that at the retrial, a different prosecution team was brought in than wasused at trial, witnesses [fellow inmates and ex-wife] recanted their testimony,and evidence was lost (i.e. audio tape and transcript of conversation betweenMartinez and his ex-wife that were ruled inadmissible at retrial), all of whichresulted in an acquittal for Martinez.


ToSabella, Martinez’ acquittal was a matter of timing (i.e. witness recantationand lost evidence), not a matter of innocence. 


Defense Statements:


Peter Raben, who servedas Martinez’ counsel in the Direct Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, had thefollowing statement regarding the Martinez case:


Accordingto Raben, Martinez did not have a fair trial, but the Florida Supreme Court was“reasoned and judicious” in its reversal of Martinez’ convictions andsentences, sending the case back to the trial court where Martinez wasacquitted. 


Rabenalso noted that Martinez was able to obtain private counsel and receivedeffective assistance of counsel, thus, the system worked for him.  To Raben, Martinez was “lucky” in the sense that he was able to afford competent counsel who couldwork for him, something that Raben feels is not true of most inmates on deathrow. 


Rabennoted that many people on death row do not have effective assistance of counseland the current system of CCRC representation is unable to effectively handlethe cases on death row.


Ina subsequent telephone conversation with Raben, he noted that some Stateevidence presented at the original trial was not presented at the retrial. This evidence included the audio tape and transcript of the conversationbetween Martinez and his ex-wife, both of which were ruled inadmissible by thetrial judge due to inaudible sections of the audio tape, and the testimony ofboth Martinez’ ex-wife and inmates who alleged that Martinez implicated himselfwhile in jail.





On 04/07/10, Mr. Rabenhad the following comments:


I have read the synopsis from 2006.There is the suggestion from the comments and what was culled from my previouscomments that Mr. Martinez may have been acquitted for reasons other than hisinnocence. The reason the case was remarkably different at the second trial isbecause many things which were not exposed at the first trial were laterrevealed.


For example, the defendant’sex-wife had significant misgivings about what she had told the police and hertestimony. She admitted that she had been upset, jealous, and was misled by thepolice. She believed that she had not been truthful with the police, and at thefirst trial. That is one reason she was not called as a witness at the secondtrial.


It was also revealed that thetranscript of the inaudible tape recording was prepared by the father of thedeceased. The court found that was improper that a family member with bias andinterest was given the task of preparing a vital and subjective document forthe jury, and the transcript was inadmissible.


The inmates who had testified atthe first trial also were not called as witnesses. That is because they hadtestified at the first trial that they had received no promises or benefits fortheir testimony, yet immediately after they testified, they wrote numerousletters to the prosecutor asking when they were going to get the sentencingreductions they were promised.


Also, a time line of the crime wascreated by the police. It was revealed that a short time after the deathsoccurred, my client had been interviewed on an unrelated matter by a policeofficer. First, the place where this interview occurred was too far removed formy client to have committed the crime. Second, the officer testified that hesaw nothing unusual about my client’s appearance.

This alibi did not come out at thefirst trial.


Finally, the mother of the deceasedhad told the police before the first trial that some rough looking men had beento her house and had a quarrel with her daughter and her boyfriend. The policehad not disclosed this to the defense. These men were identified from anewspaper article picture after their arrest for unrelated crimes, and themother testified at the trial on behalf of the defense about this episode,which suggested that these men may have committed the crime.


I hope this helps you understandthat the acquittal was because the Defendant received ineffective assistance athis first trial, the State’s witnesses had not been completely truthful, andthe State had withheld exculpatory evidence.


Current Status:


There is no informationavailable as to Martinez’ criminal history subsequent to his release. 



Report Date:   05/17/02          JFL

Approved:       05/23/02          WS

Updated:         10/05/06          JFL